Tag Archives: W_Circuit

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Tina & Steve’s W Trek & Huemul Circuit

Tina and Steve returned in November from a W Trek in Torres del Paine and Huemul Circuit in Los Glaciares National Park. Here they tell us abut their experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners….

‘I would unhesitatingly use these agents again if we return to Patagonia and we have already been recommending Swoop very highly to friends who are contemplating a trip. Very many thanks.’

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Our trip started with a visit to Swoop’s office in Bristol where we met Luke and some of the team. Other than having heard a bit about Torres del Paine from a friend, we had no real knowledge of the region or what we could do in the short time available to us. During that visit and over the course of subsequent e-mails Luke, and the Swoop Team, helped us come up with a plan to squeeze plenty of activity into our two-week timeframe.

Torres del Paine National Park

We started in Torres del Paine where we did a Self-Guided W Trek organised by Swoop’s recommended partners in Puerto Natales. We had just one night in Puerto Natales at the start after a 36-hour journey from Devon, with an early transfer next day into the park to begin the walk.

The walking was great, very mixed terrain, and hugely changeable weather; we really did get everything from hot sun to snow, invariably accompanied by the notorious wind; luckily the rain was largely overnight. It was nice to be able to change and shower in the Refugios each night (contrast the next bit of the trip), although Refugio food was distinctly unmemorable.

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Walking highlights here were the beautiful lakeside walks, and the trek to Glacier Grey. Sadly the French Valley (the middle bit of the W) was closed to walkers due to snow. Swoop’s partners were superb – Johana met us (unannounced, which was a lovely surprise) off the bus when we arrived late in Puerto Natales, got us to the hotel safely, and came up with the best packed lunch of our whole trip for the first day’s walking the next morning.

We must also mention the young lady who was waiting to check us back into the hotel when we returned from the park, again late at night. I’d stupidly left our passports, travel documents and lots of cash in the taxi we’d taken from the bus station – she confidently made lots of phone calls, poured us a cold beer, ushered us over the road to eat in the fab restaurant Aldea (highly recommended) just before they closed, and happily the young cab driver bowled up with all our stuff about 15 minutes later.

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Los Glaciares National Park

We transferred to El Calafate, visited the Perito Merino glacier, and had a night in Hosteria La Estepa – very comfortable, lovely welcoming manager Agustino, and a very nice dinner.

Then on to El Chalten; Swoop had put us in contact with a Chalten-based expedition company who organised this bit of our stay. We picked up some rental camping gear, had one night on a self-guided (rather wet) walk, and then went off with our guide Fabio to do the Huemul Circuit. This was just awesome and for me was the very best bit of our trip. The walking was strenuous at times, but we saw some amazing stuff. The trek involves four days of walking with three nights of wild camping – I think we saw no more than four other people during the whole period.

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Highlights – the zip-wire river crossing, the joys of very basic camping food, wonderful scenery, the blow-you-off-your-feet (literally) winds, and the last night camp eating our supper just below the glacier Viedma.

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Again, this partner of Swoop’s was absolutely faultless – a friendly welcome, very helpful in the shop, a great mountain guide, and an upgraded hotel in Chalten. Both agents were responsible for recommending and booking various hotels, bus transfers, taxi pick-ups etc, and everything went totally smoothly – not a single glitch in the plans.

Our trip ended with a stopover in Buenos Aires, where we had some great cocktails (we seem to have developed a Pisco habit), and the biggest steak you’ve ever seen. So top marks to Swoop – always available to respond to questions or with advice during the planning stage, but also happy to leave us to communicate directly with their partners in Patagonia, who (as I’ve said) were both superb.

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I would unhesitatingly use these agents again if we return to Patagonia (there are some other interesting-looking challenges); and we have already been recommending Swoop very highly to friends who are contemplating a trip. Very many thanks. Antarctica, anyone?

Amina’s W Trek in Torres del Paine

Amina returned in November from a W Trek in Torres del Paine. Here she tells us about her experiences on the trip, and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

‘This trip was amazing and beyond my expectations. Patagonia is so beautiful.’

What did you think of Swoop Patagonia?

The first thing I noticed about Swoop Patagonia is how fast you reply. Untypical for me I started planning/booking this trip very late, and your great service helped a lot to make this trip possible for me. You provided me with all the information I needed and connected me to your partners in Chile very quickly.

I am talking about this trip non-stop and recommending everybody to do it. And telling them how great it is, that you offer different trips, and also options for people traveling alone. So, yes I am recommending Swoop Patagonia to friends and family :)

What did you think of our partner in Chile who ran the W Trek?

Your partner who ran the W Trek was great too. There were a few bits of information that I would have preferred to receive earlier (for example that I needed to book a hotel first to buy a bus ticket, or where to meet the group when I arrive in Puerto Natales). But mistakes happen… So, it’s more important to me how do you deal with it. And they were always very polite and very eager and quick to fix these things.

And more important is the hiking trip… Our guides were amazing!!! Soo much knowledge, so funny, always looking out for us, making sure we hydrate and asking how we are feeling an if we need a break, taping my toes to avoid blisters… It was just great!

Just two things that they should mention to travellers before they arrive… There is no cell phone service during this trip and no wifi/internet service. It felt good to be disconnected for a few days. I just wished to know it before, so I would have send my parents and friends a message letting them know to not be concerned if they can’t reach me.

The other thing is that our whole group share one room- boys & girls together. I was surprised, but didn’t mind. I just think some people could feel uncomfortable and should have a chance to know about it before.

What was the highlight of your trip?

I can’t choose one highlight. The whole trip is amazing. The nature is breath-taking. I was lucky to have a great group and we bonded right away and were laughing a lot, and having nice conversations.

All my concerns about going hiking for the first time were unnecessary (I had never been hiking before. Not in Germany. Not in the US). I definitely want to do more hikes and am looking to book a hiking trip abroad next year.

Did you manage to visit anywhere else during your trip?

I visited a friend in Buenos Aires for the first week, did a day-trip to Colonia, Uruguay and another day-trip to Tigre, during that time. Before the trekking-trip, I took a flight from Buenos Aires to El Calafate, where I stayed one night (visited Perito Moreno Glacier), and took the bus to Puerto Natales to start the Patagonia trekking-tour. After the tour I returned back to Buenos Aires and caught a flight back to Boston the following day.

Do you have any tips for other travellers planning a trip?

The only tips I would give people is, pack light, and bring waterproof clothes and shoes.

Isabel’s W Trek in Torres del Paine

Isabel returned in November from a W Trek in Torres del Paine. Here she shares with us her experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

‘We had an amazing time in Patagonia and the W Trek was a great experience!’

How were Swoop Patagonia?

I thought that the service you provided was very good – you were helpful with the information you provided and responded quickly to any queries.  I thought that the handover to your partners in Chile was done very well and smoothly and that you were flexible in how you communicate with your clients. I would recommend you to any friends looking to visit Patagonia.

How were our Partners who ran the trek in Chile?

Our W Trek was well-organised and professional.  In addition to organising the trek itself, the company was helpful in booking us bus tickets to/from Puerto Natales.  I thought that the itinerary on the W Trek was great – a good mixture of longer and shorter days and comfortable refuges to stay in. Our guide (Carlos) was excellent – he spoke good English and was friendly and responsible. The only minor comment I have is that we passed by their office in Puerto Natales the day before our trek started as we had not been told where and what time to meet the next day. An email confirming this would have been helpful.

What was the highlight of your trip?

I’m not sure I’m able to pick out a single highlight – we really enjoyed the whole trip.  We were in a group with three others who we got on very well with – we thought that five was a good number for a group.

Did you visit anywhere else on your trip?

We also visited Buenos Aires, an estancia outside Junin (near BA), El Calafate, the Bariloche area and San Martin de los Andes.

Do you have any tips for other people planning a trip to Patagonia?

I would recommend that people planning a trip make sure that they bring all the recommended equipment as it all came in handy!  Also do not carry more that you absolutely need to in your backpacks.

[For some tips on what to pack, see Swoop’s Trekking Kit List]

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James’ W Trek in Torres del Paine

James returned in November from a W Trek in Torres del Paine. Here he tells us about his experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

We had a great time in Chile! We spent just over two weeks in Chile in total travelling up to the North and then the South. The highlight for me was definitely Torres de Paine.

How were Swoop Patagonia?

Swoop Patagonia were excellent from start to finish; always very prompt in replying and very informative. I asked a lot of questions before the trip (!) but always got useful answers. You and your colleagues were very helpful thank you. I would certainly recommend you to others.

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How were Swoop’s partners in Chile?

Again, excellent. Always very helpful before the trip and the itinerary was very good. I certainly came away wishing I could do more. I preferred the longer days (7-8 hrs walking) but I appreciate its very difficult to cater for everyone.

Our guide, Victor was brilliant. It wasn’t easy for him because our group was very varied in walking speeds etc but I think he handled the group very well. We all got on so well, and this was partly because of Victor as he is very good at engaging everyone as a group. He always looked after us all (and provided plenty of ginger tea!). It was lovely he came out and had a meal with us all after the trek as in the picture.

Do you have any tips for other people planning a trip to Patagonia?

Chile is a country where you really have to plan ahead before you travel there – especially if on a tight schedule like we were. But with the help of companies such as Swoop Patagonia it makes it easier. And of course ‘The lonely Planet’!

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Is there anything you would have changed about your trip?

One thing I would have done differently is we spent our last day in Punta Arenas. We didn’t really like this town, however we really liked Puerto Natales – its got a lot of character and all the people are very friendly – so I would suggest to people if had time spend a day in Puerto Natales rather than Punta Arenas.

So thanks to you all for helping make our trip a great one. We love walking and trekking so Patagonia is perfect for us. Just got to decide where to travel to next!!

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Karen’s eco camp based W Trek in Torres del Paine

Karen returned in November from an eco camp based W Trek in Torres del Paine National Park. Here she tells us about her experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners in Chile…

‘We LOVED it. Swoop was great, their partner in Chile was great, and the eco camp base was awesome’IMG_2531

What was the highlight of your trip?

That is hard – I think the W Trek, hiking Mt. Fitz Roy, the Perito Moreno Glacier and Mendoza were all highlights. 

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What did Swoop do well?

I liked the website a lot – it made it pretty clear what the different options were. Initially I was overwhelmed with planning any type of W trek because there doesn’t seem to be a ton of info online, this made it much easier.

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What could Swoop have done differently?

Overall I was happy with everything.

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Would you recommend us to friends, family or colleagues for a trip to Patagonia?

Yes

How did you enjoy your itinerary?

Yes, I liked the itinerary and the option to stay in a refugio one night and then at the eco camp for the others.

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How were your guides?

Our guides were absolutely fabulous. Claudio (Chuma) and Joaquin really helped make our trip, they were absolutely fabulous.

What did you think of the eco camp as a base?

The eco camp was great, so unique and beautiful views.

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Is there anything you would have changed about this part of your trip?

The only issue was the one night we stayed in a refugio – the eco camp told our guides (who passed along the information to us) that no one would be staying in their domes and we could leave our things as they were. While we were gone their staff came into the domes and packed our stuff for us and moved it out. We happened to be back in the same dome, but a couple we were traveling with had their stuff moved into a dome that had other people staying in it. Their sheets were dirty and the people at eco camp didn’t seem to care, and his iPAD wasn’t in his stuff when he got it all back but was in the administration office. Also, my friend who I was traveling with was missing her bag. Overall it was just very weird. It would not have been an issue at all if they had told us prior to leaving for the night to pack up our stuff because we might not be in the same dome, but this was not what they said. Our guides handled this very well helping everyone track down their belongings – and were very apologetic.

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Do you have any tips for other people planning a trip?

I think that Swoop and their partners made this very manageable by doing the planning for me. We were informed by our guides that typically people taking this trek are in their 50s-60s; our group happened to be in their 30s to early 40s, and I think this would have changed our dynamic and experience if we had been with all other people who were the age of our parents.

Did you manage to visit anywhere else in Chile or Argentina?

Buenos Aires, El Calafate, El Chalten, Santiago (one night), Mendoza.

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David’s W Trek in November

David returned in November 2014 from a W Trek in Torres del Paine. Here he tells us about his experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners in Chile.

‘Thanks a lot for all your support. It was very helpful.’

How were Swoop Patagonia?  

I really appreciated your services. Despite the differences in our time zone, you guys never made me wait for an answer and that is a fundamental point for me. You guys did a great job.

It might be helpful to inform people about other services such as porters. I’ve met people that, like me, did not know the services of porters. I did not need one but few friends over there were willing to pay for one.

I would (and in fact did) recommend you for my friends. You guys delivered everything it was promised.

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How were our partners who ran the 5 day W Trek in Chile?

Swoop’s Chilean partners were also very nice, and very good at giving us the necessary info. We only had a little hiccup which was one email unanswered for a week. Later Gonzalo apologised and explained that he was out of town.

I definitely enjoyed the itinerary. The way the trip was split allowed us to get used to the trails and at the end we were walking at easy.

The guide was the highlight of our trip. He was very funny and knowledgeable. Each time we were approaching a Refugio he would go faster so that when we arrived there our ‘check in’ was taken care of. He always made sure that we were safe and comfortable without ever being patronising.

I guess if I was to change anything I would have liked to stay longer in each refugio, since there are so many beautiful things to see, especially around the ‘Cuernos’. But in terms of the itinerary itself I would not change anything.

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Did you manage to visit anywhere else in Chile or Argentina?

I only had time to visit Punta Arenas, but I was equally impressed by its history.

What was the highlight of your trip?

Hard to say… I guess having met so many amazing people and walked through that beautiful landscape made for incredible memories. It would be unfair to pick a single moment.

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Danny’s W Trek in Torres del Paine

Danny returned in October from a W Trek in Torres del Paine National Park. Here he tells us about his experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners.

‘The trekking in Torres Del Paine was amazing, simply outstanding… It’s everything I’ve dreamt and hoped one day I would do.  And I fulfilled my dream 100%.’

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What did you think of Patagonia?

Patagonia region is a unique place in this world. I never thought such beauty could exist on this planet.  Actually, the only way I could describe it to my family and friends, is for me to ask them to imagine a space ship dropping you on another planet in this universe, where no civilization has ever touched the ground.  Well this is Torres Del Paine!

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How were our partners in Chile who ran your W Trek?

They were an excellent operator; I applaud you on the selection.  The guide was amazing, knowledgeable, professional, and at the same friendly and amusing.  He was a great companion, very understanding of our physical limitations at certain times, yet challenged us to complete the entire tour with delight.  Everything went perfect, the trekking itself, the lodging was excellent, food was good, and transportation was timely and comfortable.  Can’t complain at all.

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What was the highlight of your trip?

The highlight of the trip was trekking the French Valley and reaching the top, wow!  I can still close my eyes and remember the 360′ view… I would recommend this trip for every person in this world; it’s a must-see must-do before leaving this earth!  That’s exactly what I’ve been telling everyone.  I’ve even promised my kids (who are 11 and 9) that I will take them there one day once they’re old enough to appreciate the beauty and charm of this magical place.

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‘I want to take this opportunity to thank you for fulfilling my dream.  You made it happen… Take care, and you can count on me knocking your doors when the time is right for me to venture once again.’

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Chris’ eco camp W Trek in Torres del Paine

Chris returned in late October from a W Trek based from an eco friendly camp in Torres del Paine National Park. Here he tells us about his experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners in Chile.

‘We would definitely recommend the holiday to friends looking for a luxury holiday’

How were Swoop Patagonia and our partners in Chile?

The communication from Swoop and their partners was great, we had a good deal of info on the different options and you answered our questions very quickly. We found payment through Swoop’s partner’s website was easy to use.

How was your 5 day W Trek from the eco camp?

The tour itself was fantastic, the guides were really wonderful and clearly had a huge amount of knowledge about the area and the wildlife; they looked after us throughout our stay and made sure we were comfortable.

What did you think of the eco camp you stayed at?

The camp was great, especially the luxury domes which we would highly recommend. The food was also good with a good selection of options. I even tried yoga out for the first time as our whole hiking group went along!

Is there anything you would change about your trip?

One area that might be considered to improve was that my partner was unable to go hiking one day because she had an old knee injury and the hike up Torres Del Paine was very stressful to the knees. It would have been great to have offered her a place on an alternative tour for this day. As it was though, she did have a day of rest in our dome, which was quite good.

Did you visit anywhere else as part of your trip?

We visited friends in Santiago after the trip, but we didn’t fit in any other places in Chile or Argentina.

What was the highlight of your trip?

Our highlight of the trip was the trek to see the Grey Glacier, we were impressed with how close the boat took us.

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Julin’s Winter W Trek in August

Julin returned in September from a Winter Trek in Torres del Paine. Here he tells us about his experiences on his trip, and in booking with Swoop Patagonia…

‘We had a fabulous trip!’

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What did Swoop do well?

Swoop were responsive and gave informative answers during initial contact and set-up.  They were very helpful in figuring out flights and other logistics.  The travel partner they recommended in Torres del Paine was first-rate

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What could we have done differently?

One of my early queries went unanswered, but otherwise everything was good.

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How were our partners in Torres del Paine?

Top notch:  highly organised and very professional.  Everyone we dealt with was absolutely first rate.  Also we had to change our dates by one day because of a strike in Argentina that cancelled our flight to El Calafate.  They rearranged everything for us and figured out bus schedules etc (non-trivial because there was not a direct bus from Calafate to Natales on the day that we needed one under the new schedule)

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How did you enjoy the itinerary?

The 5 day Winter W Trek itinerary was perfect.  We wanted good long hikes and beautiful Patagonian scenery, and that is exactly what we got.

How were the guides on the trek?

Fantastic.  While in retrospect could have easily done the W trek unguided I found a lot of value in having Mauricio as a guide.  1) He was very knowledgeable about the area.  2) He knew how to time our hikes so that we were sure to get to our destinations (and got us all the way to the British Lookout in French Valley–substantially further than the plan in the itinerary).  3) Choosing hikes based on the weather to maximize views, etc.  4) Excellent knowledge of flora and fauna.  5) Great sense of humor.  6) Not having to cook was quite a luxury.

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Is there anything you would have changed about this part of your trip?

None.

What was the highlight of your trip?

Brittish lookout, French Valley.  But honestly hard to pick.  I thought all three valleys were stunning.

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Do you have any tips for other people planning a trip?

Do it!  Train before with some long distance hikes.  Work up to 20-25km.  We were glad that we did.

[Take a look at our Before You Go page for some pre-trip planning tips]

Avalanche, Cerro Paine Grande

Did you manage to visit anywhere else in Chile or Argentina?

1. Buenos Aires.  Great city for eating and an incredible bargain if you exchange on the blue market.  I highly recommend the graffitimundo tour. http://graffitimundo.com/

2. Perito Moreno Glacier.  We did the “mini-trek” which allow walking on the glacier for a couple of hours.  Touristy but worth it. Best to do this after the “W” otherwise Glacier Gray might seem small (although I think Glacier Gray is more scenic).

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Lauren’s Winter W Trek in August

Lauren returned in August from a Winter Trek in Torres del Paine. Here she tells us about her experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners in Chile…

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How did Swoop do in helping you plan and arrange your trip? 

From the beginning, Swoop was easy to work with and always quick to respond to any questions that we had about planning our Patagonia trip. It was especially helpful to get their insight into the pros and cons of setting up a trek during Chilean winter, and we didn’t feel pressured one way or another. In the end, doing the 5 Day Winter W Trek was amazing and worth a little bit of cold weather!

[Here’s a little more about Weather in Patagonia throughout the season]

Is there anythign we could have done differently?

Nothing! You guys had just the right amount of communication with us as we went through the trip-planning process.

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How did you enjoy the itinerary provided by our partners in Chile?

Although we were initially in a bit of sticker-shock from general Patagonia organised trek costs, we were very happy with the value that our trek ended up having. Everything from the itinerary to the food to the transportation was well organised and comfortable, and we were able to have a nice balance of a rugged trekking experience with certain little luxuries that made the trip more relaxing and enjoyable.

One of the nice things about the itinerary during our trek was its flexibility- obviously a lot of what we did depended on the weather and other external factors, but our guide made sure to check in with us about what we wanted to do and what we were feeling up to as the trek continued.

How were your guides on the trek?

Our guide, Mauricio, was amazing. Not only was he very knowledgable, experienced and attentive as a guide, but he was also just lots of fun to hang out with and easy to spend 5 days with. Because our trek was only 3 people including the guide, we were curious how that dynamic would go…but it was always comfortable, fun and easy-going. Mauricio also did a great job of showing us the sights, critters, and unseen spots in the winter, and he always challenged us to go a bit further. It was always worth it!

Is there anything you would have changed about your trip?

Nothing that I can think of.

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What was the highlight of your trip?

Our very first day of full trekking was a clear, cold, and sunny day, and we decided to head up the French Valley. Thanks to Mauricio’s knowledge and experience, we were able to put in a full day of hiking and make it all the way up to the Britanico viewpoint. The snow seemed pretty untouched and it seemed like we were the only ones who had made it up there this winter, and without any other people around, it was very surreal and beautiful. An exhausting but amazing day that was very, very worth the hard work!

Do you have any tips for other people planning a trip?

Go in the winter if you are okay with some cold temperatures and being a little bit flexible…Not only is it beautiful to see the snow, ice and winter landscape, but it was amazing to feel like we were the only ones there. A great way to do the W-trek.

Did you manage to visit anywhere else in Chile or Argentina?

We spent time in Santiago, Valparaiso, and Mendoza…but that was just warm up for the beautiful sights and great experience of being in Chilean Patagonia!

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